Tobold's Blog
Saturday, April 25, 2020
Finding my league in World of Tanks

I am on the 45th and last stage of the Battle Pass event. And while I was originally very skeptical about the event, it unexpectedly led to me having a lot more fun in World of Tanks than before. It ended up being one of these "quests" that manage to steer a player in the right direction, towards more fun. Which is far from evident, so I would like to take the time to talk about quests.

The very early MMORPGs didn't have much questing. In spite of the name, you rarely did a quest in Everquest. A lot of players called it Evercamp, because the most efficient way to play was to "camp" the same location. After "breaking a camp", that is to say dealing once with a full group of monsters at a location, you would stay at that location and kill the respawns one by one, which was a lot easier than moving to another location with another full group of monsters. It is hard to imagine today, but back in the days you would go into a zone and shout "camp check" in general chat, and the players in the zone that were camping a location would reply, so you knew which camp wasn't taken yet. People would stay on one camp for hours, even days, until they leveled up and needed a different camp for xp.

The situation that we now consider normal, every zone having quest hubs and hundreds of quests sending you all over the place, was a novelty when World of Warcraft came out. The combination of quest rewards and a less deadly combat system made camping a bad strategy. You would gain more xp and rewards if you worked through the list of all quests in the zone. And that obviously led to you seeing a lot more of each zone. Quests were designed to make the game more varied and more fun, and for a time that worked. Today there are barely any games left which don't have some system of quests or mission system. And neither the intent nor the result is necessarily to make the game more fun to play. Quests can be boring grinds in an attempt to hide a lack of content, or they can steer players towards monetization options in a game. No wonder quests aren't as popular anymore than in the early days of World of Warcraft.

In World of Tanks there are daily quests and new events all the time. Some of them, especially the daily quests, are simply ignored. You just play whatever you wanted to play, and at some point by chance you fulfill a quest condition and get a minor extra reward. At the other extreme there are events like mission marathons, which with the promise of much bigger rewards entice you to change the way you play, usually trying to steer you towards playing a lot more than usual. In some cases an event requires you to play a specific tank, which is problematic if that tank is sub-optimal or just not what you like to play. Missions can also be frustrating if they require you to win battles: With you being just one player in a team of 15, it frequently feels as if it is way outside your control whether a battle is won or lost. You end up just hating your team mates.

The Battle Pass event is fortunately not very restrictive. It's main requirement is that need to be among the top 10 of your team to get any points. You get 0 points if you are among the bottom 5, 3 points if you are among the top 10 of a losing team, 5 points if you are among the top 10 of the winning team or among the top 3 of the losing team, and 7 points if you are among the top 3 of the winning team. With that system, how well you perform in battle compared to the rest of your team counts for more than whether you win or lose. Being teamed up with a bunch of idiots means that at least it becomes easier to be among the top 10 or even top 3.

But what ended up with me having a lot of fun with the Battle Pass event is that it steered me towards playing at the right tier for me. I have always said that if you plot fun over difficulty in games, you get a curve with an optimum. Too trivially easy is boring, while banging your head against frustrating difficulty isn't fun either. Somewhere in the middle there is a sweet spot, where the game is interesting and challenging without being frustrating. For me playing World of Tanks at the top tiers is frustrating. While reflexes are everything in World of Tanks, they sure do help, and I in my mid-50s can't compete with teenagers. I also didn't play World of Tanks for years, so I can't compete in experience and benefits from accumulated rewards with veterans that have played far more games than I did. While many game mechanics in World of Tanks push you towards playing at tier 10, the top tier, that is very far from the fun optimum for me. I am simply out of my leagues. I am doing a lot better in the low tiers, but that isn't very challenging.

The Battle Pass encouraged me to optimize: The requirement of being among the top 10 of your team resulted in me only making 2 points per battle on average when playing in the high tiers. With some experimentation I ended up finding an optimum at tier 6, where I am among the top 10 most of the time, I even am among the top 3 sometimes, and I end up with 4 points per battle on average. But this process didn't just optimize how many points I got, it also simultaneously optimized my fun: Doing well compared to the rest of your team feels like me having more of an impact. And because you can only earn up to 100 points with a single tank at tier 6, the even encouraged me to play a lot of different tanks, which again was good for fun. I made most of my points playing nearly every tier 6 medium tank in the game. Medium tanks were another optimization result: Artillery and tank destroyers are often too passive for me, heavy tanks are frustrating when your armor is useless against tanks two tiers higher than you, and light tanks are fun for scouting, but pack less of a punch than mediums.

I think that I have found my league, and that I will in the future play the large majority of my games in these mid-tiers. If a future event pushes me towards high tiers, I'll just opt out. Life is too short to play a game in an un-fun way for some measly virtual reward.


So how to you deal with encountering Defenders / Progettos? Because my trust in high tiers of my team is usually not that much. By playing 8/9 I feel at least I have a chance to balance out the Skorpion in our team hiding in a far corner.
When I am a tier 6 medium in a tier 8 game, I obviously have to play differently than if I play in a tier 6 game. I play more like a light tank and scout, or try to snipe from a distance. I also never fell for the ridiculous idea that using premium ammo is "bad". If my regular ammo can't possibly penetrate a tank, I load the gold. Dealing with a defender means hitting him from the side or back with gold ammo, trying a face to face duel would just be suicide.
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